Monday, January 26, 2009

A Not-So-Surprising Announcement

If you're reading this blog, chances are you are NOT going to be surprised at what this post is about! I started this blog last fall with the intention of documenting my summer trip around the world. I publicized the trip as being a humanitarian aid trip. While the Lord allowed me to serve those living and serving in the various areas, the MAIN purpose of the trip was for me to seek out places that God may have me live and serve on a longer time period. This is why I traveled from the very laid back atmosphere of Eastern Europe to the high energy, efficient Asia and various other places in between. I wanted to see where I would fit in the best. Out of all the places that I've EVER visited, I've never felt my heart stir like it did while I was in Sarajevo, Bosnia. While I haven't submitted my official resignation yet to my school, I'm hoping and planning to move to Sarajevo, Bosnia this summer to serve the people there. 

So.... to help you navigate through what will probably be a massively long post, here are the FAQ's:

1. What lead you to the point of going into moving overseas?

After becoming a Christian my senior year in high school, I first caught the service "bug" my sophomore year in college. This is when I heard for the first time that there are massive amounts of people in the world that have never even heard the gospel. It shocked me that some places had less than a .01% Christian population when I was so used to be surrounded by it here! In the following summers, I went to Marseilles, France to pass out bibles and other materials to those passing through the North African ports (Summer 2003), La Paz, Bolivia to teach music and athletics at a summer camp (Summer 2004), and various other countries last summer (2008). Each time, the verse "the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few" began to make more and more sense to me. There are millions of people that had never heard the name of Christ and I desired to somehow be a part of serving them.

2. How did you go about choosing Sarajevo, Bosnia?

Dude. All I can say is that its totally God. I didn't choose it- He did. It wasn't even on my radar. I spent much of last summer ministering and surveying the areas in Montenegro in areas that are an overnight bus ride away from Sarajevo. When I had just a few days left in Montenegro and nothing specific on the calendar, I decided very last minute to travel over to Sarajevo basically to see the sights! What happened while I was there shocked me- the Lord gave me an interest and burning compassion for the people and their culture that I had not had in any place before.

3. What made you finally make the decision to go?

If you had read my blog over the last few months, you are probably aware that I was wavering back and forth over whether or not I was going to pursue this. I wasn't able to distinguish if this was the Lord's will or not for my life. To be honest, I was growing really frustrated by it all. One day I was convinced I was going and the next day I was confused again. When I finally had some time to rest over Christmas break, God finally brought me to my breaking point. Was I really willing to lay ALL my desires at his feet and follow him WHEREVER He lead me and do WHATEVER He asked me to do?

Up to that point, the answer was NO. There were still some non-negotiables that I was holding on to. For ONE specific example, I did NOT want to give up being a full time teacher (Man. I love those crazy middle school students!). The conviction came when I read 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 " For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for ALL, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." By not putting ALL my desires in His hands, I was living for myself. How can I hold back for the One who has not held ANYTHING back from me?  It was only after reaching a place of complete submission and placing EVERYTHING in His hands that the direction clearly came. And, man, did it come. From that point, there hasn't been a doubt in my mind that this is what the Lord wants me to pursue right now.

4. What can you tell me about Sarajevo, Bosnia and Hercegovina?

First of all, I am no expert on the situation. I'm trying to read up to learn more about it and would love any insight any of you have. Here's what I understand to be true. Sarajevo has always been a central place in history, even though it hasn't always been positive! Just a few examples: Franz Fernidand was assassinated on a street corner in Sarajevo (remember that from your history classes?) and this basically started WWI. On a more positive note- Sarajevo served as the sight of the 1984 Winter Olympics. Probably what lies the most in people's minds is what happened in the past 20 years. Bosnia used to be included in the country of Yugoslavia, which now no longer exists. Yugoslavia split up into Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, and Montenegro. In the fight for land and naming rights, a brutal civil war broke out in the 1990's. Sarajevo became a central location for the fighting- the Serb forces ended up surrounding Sarajevo and killing normal CITIZENS of the city during normal trips to the bread store, clothes, etc. People had to live underground and in complete fear for years. All in all, 11,000 citizens were killed and the Islamic community was targeted the most.

The statistics now? There are still remnants of the war physically, mentally, and emotionally all around the city. The dominant religion is Islam and biblical Christianity is almost unknown in almost all of Bosnia proper. It is a very strategic place for Christian missions and humanitarian aid workers.

5. How long are you planning to be gone?

I'm officially planning on committing to two years of ministry there with the possibility of staying longer.  I'm leaving it open to what God wants me to do afterwards.

6. Will you have a job while you are there?

Yes and no... The unemployment in Sarajevo hovers around 45%, and it is strongly looked down upon when a foreigner takes a job. While I won't have an official bring-home-the-bacon sort of job like I have had in the states, I will be spending my time serving the people.   To pay for all of of the living and ministry costs, I'm currently looking for people that are interested in partnering in this ministry either prayerfully and/or financially as the Lord leads them to do so. I believe strongly that while not every Christian is led to physically serve overseas, all believers are to be involved somehow in overseas missions. This can include praying, or giving financially. Psalm 96:3: "Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among ALL the peoples!" 

7. So, why exactly are you going?

After the challenging semester of seeking the Lord direction, I can say with confidence that the only reason I'm earnestly pursuing going is because I feel that God wants me to do so. Its not because I don't like my job and want to move on to something "greater." (I know that teaching is a ministry in itself!) Its not for an adventure or to cross something off a "bucket list." Going back to 2 Corinthians 5:14-15: "for the love of Christ compels us." I love Jesus and all that He's done for me. Its for Him that I go, taking with me the hope that He would use me to glorify Himself amongst the Bosnian people.

8. So..... what now?

For now, I'm going to continue to love my middle school students (I plan on telling them these plans this week), hang out with my family (1 niece and two nephews now...whoa...), take classes at seminary (DTS), serve in my local church, sleep past 9 on Saturdays, hit a few softballs when the season starts, and raise financial and prayer support. Its busy, busy, but I'm grateful to be doing things that I love!!!

 I'll be using this blog periodically throughout this semester and summer with various updates, random thoughts, adorable pictures of my niece and nephews, and whatever else comes up along the way! Thanks for checking in!

Till next time,